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In symbolic motion, Catalan parliament supports referendum and ousted leader Puigdemont

Text is approved by separatist majority at a tense session reflecting deep divisions in Catalan politics

The Catalan parliament on Thursday.
The Catalan parliament on Thursday.

The Catalan parliament on Thursday approved a motion drafted by separatist parties denouncing the “illegal and illegitimate removal” of ousted premier Carles Puigdemont by central authorities in Madrid, and defending the legitimacy of the illegal independence referendum of October 1.

The document also demands an “end to the meddling” by the central government and accuses it of trying to “prevent the realization of the democratic will of the representatives of the people of Catalonia as expressed on October 1.”

They have a majority to govern, but not to declare independence

Xavier Domènech, Catalunya en Comú-Podem

The motion – a political declaration of intentions with no legal effects – was filed by Puigdemont’s Together for Catalonia (JuntsxCat) party with support from the other two separatist forces in the regional assembly, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and the anti-establishment CUP.

The pro-unity parties – Ciudadanos, the Catalan Socialists (PSC) and the Popular Party (PP) – refused to take part in the vote. The motion was approved 68 to eight, with the negative votes coming from the unaligned Catalunya en Comú-Podem, a leftist alliance that includes Podemos.

The move is being widely viewed as a symbolic show of support for Puigdemont, who unsuccessfully attempted to get remotely reinstated in office from his new location in Belgium. For weeks, separatist parties have been negotiating a new candidate to form a separatist government in Catalonia, and they appear to have settled on Jordi Sànchez, a pro-independence civic leader who is in pre-trial custody in Madrid in connection with a rebellion probe. But the success of such a nominee, who would require authorization from the Supreme Court to attend the investiture debate, remains unclear.

Inés Arrimadas of Ciudadanos speaking at the session.
Inés Arrimadas of Ciudadanos speaking at the session. EFE

In the meantime, Puigdemont could become an ambassador-at-large of sorts, in charge of spreading the separatist message at the global level as head of a symbolic Council of the Republic to be based in Brussels.

A tense session

Accusations flew during a tense session that reflected the divisions cleaving Catalan politics. Although the final draft of the motion eliminated a paragraph reasserting the validity of the unilateral declaration of independence made on October 27 – the far-left CUP had originally wanted this wording to be included, but finally agreed to withdraw it – the text still said that the December 21 elections “ratified a majority by pro-independence forces, that is to say, political groups favoring a republican form of government and the constitution of Catalonia as an independent state in the form of a republic.”

The move is being widely viewed as a symbolic show of support for Puigdemont

Spanish prosecutors had warned on Wednesday that they would act against the Catalan parliament’s speakers committee, the Mesa, if its members accepted debating a motion containing renewed support for unilateral independence.

Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Ciudadanos – the most-voted party at the December elections, but unable to form a majority with other unionist groups – accused separatists of having “no roadmap and no plans for Catalans.”

Quim Torra, of JuntsxCat, said that the motion is “the starting point for the republican project we want to offer Catalans.”

Xavier Domènech, of the unaligned CeC, urged separatists to form a government in order to end direct rule from Madrid. The leftist leader said that the secessionists’ strategy has reached a dead end. “They have a majority to govern, but not to declare independence.”

Miquel Iceta, head of the Catalan Socialists (PSC), said it makes no sense to go back to a republic “that was never born” and instead left a divided nation behind. “The first question is very simple: will the legal framework be accepted or not?” he asked of separatists.

Xavier García Albiol, head of the Popular Party (PP), said that Thursday’s session reflects the “surrealist situation” of Catalan politics, and warned that trying to get Jordi Sànchez appointed will be tantamount to “remaining stuck in Groundhog Day.”

CUP spokesman Carles Riera, whose group has been the most vocal supporter of unilateral independence, accused its separatist partners of “yielding” to pressure from the Spanish state. “The priority is not to restore the government, but to restore the republic,” he said.

The small, radical group has been playing the role of kingmaker inside the Catalan parliament, offering more moderate separatists support in exchange for greater steps towards independence.

English version by Susana Urra.

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